Sabre started. Mrs. Sabre! Mabel!
The hunchback sprang to his feet and jerked a bow.
“I represent Mr.
Bright, the father of the deceased.”
The coroner bowed to each. The hunchback and the solicitor representing the interests of Mrs. Sabre leaned back in their chairs and exchanged whispers behind the men seated between them.
The jury shuffled up from their seats and were sworn in and shuffled back again.... The coroner was speaking. “... and you will hear the evidence of the witnesses who will be brought before you ... and I propose to take first the case of the deceased child ... two deaths ... and it will be found more convenient to dispose first of the case of the child.... First witness!”
“Did I say to you last time, after that Brighton business, that the man had crashed, that the roof had fallen in on him? Did I say that? May I never again use superlatives till I’ve turned over the page to make sure they weren’t comparatives. Eh, man, sitting on his bed there at Brighton and gibbering at me, Sabre was a whole man, a sane man; he was a fortunate and happy man, compared with this that I saw come at him down at Tidborough yesterday.
“I’ve told you that chap that came up to him outside the Law Courts evidently told him the girl had killed herself and that he was wanted for the inquest. Next day I went down, knowing nothing about it, of course. I hit up Tidborough about twelve. No train out to Penny Green for an hour, so I went to take a fly. Old chap I went to charter, when he heard it was Sabre’s place I was looking for, told me Sabre was at this inquest; said he’d driven him in to it. And told me what inquest. Inquest! You can guess how I felt. It was the first I’d heard about it. Hopped into the cab and drove down to it.
“By Jove, old man.... By Jove, old man, how I’m ever going to tell you. That poor chap in there baited by those fiends.... By Jove.... By Jove.... You know, old man, I’ve told you before, I’m not the sort of chap that weeps, he knows not why; I never nursed a tame gazelle and all that sort of thing. I can sit through a play thinking about my supper while my wife ruins her dress and my trousers crying over them—but this business, old Sabre up in that witness box with his face in a knot and stammering out ‘Look here—. Look here—’; that was absolutely all he ever said; he never could get any farther—old Sabre going through that, and the solicitor tearing the inside out of him and throwing it in his face, and that treble-dyed Iscariot Twyning prompting the solicitor and egging him on, with his beastly spittle running like venom out of the corners of his mouth—I tell you my eyes felt like two boiled gooseberries in my head: boiled red hot; and a red-hot potato stuck in my throat, stuck tight. I tell you....